Dog Training

Reward-based dog training. What it is and why it works.

Reward-based dog training. What it is and why it works.

Often referred to as positive reinforcement training, reward-based dog training is all about rewarding your dog’s good behaviour and ignoring the bad. Rewards don’t have to be treats and can include praise, games and toys.

Many vets and animal experts support this way of training. It teaches your dog that good behaviour equals good things and has been proven to be very effective.

The benefits of this type of training

Lots of owners have great success with reward-based dog training. People who try a more punitive approach, on the other hand, are frequently disappointed. This is not only because dogs often don’t understand punishment, but because owners can be inadvertently rewarding bad behaviour. A dog who jumps up, for example, is likely to want attention so telling them off is giving them that, albeit in a negative sense. Much better to wait until your dog has all four paws back on the ground and then reward them. That way, your dog learns that it’s not the jumping up that gets attention, but the standing or sitting.

Another great illustration of how punishment can be confusing for a dog is telling them off for a housetraining accident. An owner’s intention here would obviously be to teach their furry friend that it’s not acceptable to eliminate inside their home. However, it’s more likely the lesson a dog will take from this is that it’s not safe to eliminate when their owner is around. A communication problem has arisen. If, instead of telling your dog off when they have an accident, you wait until they eliminate outside, and then offer lots of treats and praise, you are likely to see much better results.

As well as being effective, reward-based training can also be a lot of fun for both dog and owner and be a great way for the two of you to bond.

The golden rules of reward-based training

Set yourself up for success

If you haven’t read Dog training tips to make life easier, now is a great time to do so. It’s packed with useful advice such as keeping training sessions short and sweet and limiting distractions.

Choose your rewards

Find out what rewards best motivate your dog. This could be being praised and fussed, getting a favourite toy or playing a special game. For a lot of dogs, the most desirable reward will be food. If this is the case, PEDIGREE™ Ranchos Slices and Ranchos Sticks could be just what you need. Ranchos Slices are made with 100% natural beef and Ranchos Sticks 100% natural chicken. Neither contain any added colours or flavours, and they are less than 5% fat. Whatever treats you use for

training, you need to make sure they provide a maximum of 10% of your dog’s daily calorie allowance.

Train consistently and patiently

Consistency and patience are the bedrock of any training regime and it’s important to give your dog time to ‘get it’ at their own pace.


When your dog does what you’re asking them to do, whether that’s coming when they’re called or sitting when they are asked, you should give them their reward straightaway so it’s clear that the desired behaviour is what led to the thing they like.

Never punish or scold your dog

Telling dogs off or punishing them has been shown not to be effective as dogs often don’t understand what they are being punished for. Worse still, it can make your dog frightened of you.

Are there disadvantages to reward-based training?

Some owners are reluctant to use rewards when training their dog because they worry it’s bribery and their furry friend will only behave well when there’s a reward on offer. However, the truth is you only need to use lots of rewards to teach your dog a new behaviour and, once they are trained, these can be scaled back.

What do I do if my dog is behaving badly?

If your dog is behaving badly, the best thing you can do is ignore that behaviour and then wait until they are being ‘good’ again before rewarding them. For example, if you are teaching your dog recall and they don’t come when you first call them, don’t tell your dog off but instead wait until they do and then reward them.

Why you shouldn’t punish your dog

There’s a consensus among vets and animal experts that you should never punish or scold a dog. This is because it has been shown to be ineffective and can make your dog frightened of you. A dog who is scolded or punished isn’t likely to understand what they are in trouble for.

Looking for more tips and advice to help with training? Check out How to communicate with your dog and How to toilet train a puppy or dog.